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Painting Signs with Mr. Sign: CreativeMornings and Maker brings Dave Arnold back to town

By Sharif Virani on May 7, 2013

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Disclosure:  Author Sharif Virani is the co-organizer of CreativeMornings, a monthly speaker series and morning gathering of creative types.

What does that mean? Who is this prodigal son of Oakville? Why is he known as Mr. Sign?

Well, for those of you that have been either living under a rock or captivated by this past season of The Vampire Diaries (I’m not judging… and I’m a season behind so no spoilers please), Dave Arnold is Montreal-based visual artist best known for his unique Pop-Art. His aesthetic combines a modern sensibility with a penchant for nostalgia. In late 2009 he launched a commercial art business called Mr. Sign to respond to widespread demand from restaurant and clothing stores for his uncannily precise lettering and lines.

As such, Mr. Sign has gone on to provide premium interior and exterior painting services to a range of established retailers and restaurants in the Montreal area; including culinary Mecca Joe Beef and popular hipster hangs like the Sparrow.

If you were lucky enough to catch Mr. Sign at the February CreativeMornings talk then you know what he is all about – passion, laughs and creativity. For those of you not as fortunate, be sure to check out the video of his talk at the top of the page.

Earlier this month local designer Steve St. Pierre, cofounder of Maker design studio, sat down with Dave for a quick Q&A:

MAKER: You mentioned in your talk at Creative Mornings that there’s a trend these days tilting toward the value of craft and hard work and all things handmade. Why exactly do you think that is?

DAVE ARNOLD: I think it’s in response to the mass-computerization of EVERYTHING over the last 20-30 years. Granted, it’s pretty fascinating what computers can do, but they’re not humans. A skilled human can blow a computer out of the water with their eyes closed. It’s a fuckin’ computer for god’s sake.

MAKER: Many people get caught up in the every day and decide not to follow their passion, ignoring signs along the way of things that could take their life in a more fulfilling direction. Was there a specific moment for you where you just said, ‘fuck it’ and went after what you wanted?

DAVE ARNOLD: Yeah, the last ‘straight’ job I worked pushed me to brink of insanity. I chose dirt-poor doing something I was good at over semi-poor doing something I hated. In the end it was a pretty good call. Three years later and I’ve surpassed semi-poor and now I’m just poor. It’s pretty nice.

MAKER: What’s the creative process like for you? Is there a lot of collaboration between you and the client, or do they just give you a tip of the cap and say ‘go do your thing’?

mrsignfinal2 DAVE ARNOLD: It really depends, job to job. Some people DO give me the tip of the hat and let me run with it, but more often than not it’s a real collabo.  I’ve learned to appreciate both approaches. They each have their pros and cons, but it’s always interesting watching the collabo develop.  It never ends up QUITE how I expected, which, in this business, counts as ‘interesting.’

SHARIF VIRANI: Do you like tasty brews?


Dave Arnold aka Mr Sign will be joining us in Ottawa again this weekend (you will need something to do as they are calling for rain!) and a limited amount of people will be lucky enough to have the chance to sit down in a workshop with him where he will school you in his fine art and precise craft!

Details and sign up information all available here. Tickets to the workshop are $90.00 and include all the supplies/equipment for the workshop + everything required for you to take home and practice on your own afterwards!